Nidhi Choudhari’s story is one that resonates deeply with the essence of Rajasthan, her place of origin. Growing up in the charming town of Nagaur, she held a childhood dream close to her heart: to become an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. What truly sets Nidhi apart is her unyielding commitment and strong work ethic. Her journey from Nagaur to her current position is nothing short of remarkable, and she has become well-known for her integrity and ethical values. As she eagerly prepares to address the audience at the Elets National Revenue Summit, her Rajasthan roots are a source of great pride. She shares her excitement about this prestigious platform with Garima Pant, Associate Editor, Elets News Network (ENN) in an exclusive interaction. Edited excerpts:
Could you share your role and responsibilities as the Joint Commissioner of GST in Mumbai, particularly in the successful implementation of GST policies and procedures within your jurisdiction?
I currently serve as the Joint Commissioner for the Nariman Point nodal office, and I’m also responsible for the Public Relations Office of the GST Department. My responsibilities cover a broad range of GST-related policies, from registration and refunds to recovery, audits, and scrutiny. I oversee these functions in this particular region through a team of 39 officers and approx 80 STIs and TAs. Essentially, the GST tax administration process starts with registration and concludes with the cancellation of registration. Throughout this cycle, there are multiple layers involved, such as filing of returns, assessments, scrutiny, audits, recovery, refund etc which are all monitored and implemented through my nodal office.
Taxpayer services are crucial for compliance. How do you ensure businesses and individuals receive accurate guidance, support, and information regarding GST registration, compliance, and filing?
Although GST is relatively new, having been in place for six years, it represents a significant overhaul of India’s previously complex tax systems. Adopted under the “One Nation, One Tax” principle, GST has taken time to fully integrate into the tax landscape, particularly in educating taxpayers about new policies like input tax credit transfers.
Fortunately, in the state of Maharashtra, the GST department has a strong collaborative relationship with taxpayers. This includes a longstanding partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), whose regional office is located in BKC Mumbai. Our association with ICAI, as well as with other practitioners, has been ongoing not just since the inception of GST in 2017, but for several decades.
To foster this collaboration, we have even allocated space within our GST office at Mazgaon for the GST Practitioners Association. This co-location allows for immediate resolution of any tax-related issues, as all relevant authorities are housed under one roof.
To ensure seamless communication between administrative bodies and stakeholders, we regularly host workshops, seminars, and conferences. These events facilitate dialogue with various interest groups, including chartered accountancy associations, GST practitioners, and traders. Through these platforms, we keep everyone updated on policy changes, effectively bridging the gap that often exists between administrative policies and their real-world implementation.
GST revenue collection is a vital aspect. Can you discuss your strategies for effectively managing tax collection and enforcing compliance to contribute to revenue generation?
Since joining this office, I’ve noticed that return filing is a critical aspect of our administrative processes, and it’s monitored meticulously. As Joint Commissioner, I assess on a monthly basis whether our taxpayers have submitted their returns. This isn’t just an individual effort; even the Chief Commissioner of Maharashtra takes a hands-on approach, aiming for zero defaults across all nodal offices. There’s even a competitive aspect; nodal offices strive to achieve zero default rates, ensuring that every taxpayer has filed their returns.
We actively engage with taxpayers, reaching out personally to those who haven’t filed their returns. Building strong relationships with taxpayers and dealers through our officers is crucial. Even if there’s a delay in filing, persistent follow-ups usually lead to submissions. This proactive approach is why Maharashtra has consistently had impressive return filing rates, contributing significantly to the national economy.
The Chief Commissioner plays an integral role in this, often sending direct messages to Joint Commissioners about any pending return filings and personally reviewing the situation.
For large taxpayers, we’ve established dedicated Large Taxpayer Units (LTUs). We have multiple LTUs, each responsible for a significant portion of tax recoveries. This specialized focus ensures that tax compliance is maintained at a high level.
Through these methods, we not only ensure rigorous tax compliance but also cultivate a sense of responsibility and awareness among taxpayers, especially if there are lapses in return filing.
Could you shed some light on the technological initiatives in place to enhance the processes of revenue management and collection?
Maharashtra has long been a pioneer in adopting technological advancements, even during the era of Value Added Tax (VAT). One fundamental aspect of indirect tax administration is registration, and ensuring its legitimacy is crucial. To combat fake registrations, which enable unauthorized tax collection, Maharashtra had a multi-stage verification process even during the VAT era. This system has been carried over into the GST framework. We validate the authenticity of electricity bills by collaborating with major utility providers in Mumbai, from BEST to Adani to Tata. Aadhaar authentication is also in place.
Additionally, the Maharashtra GST department is working on linking registration documents, such as lease and license agreements, for direct verification through our back-office portal. Our aim is to restrict registrations only to genuine traders, minimizing the risk of fraudulent activities.
In the past, non-genuine traders, often termed ‘Hawala,’ were closely monitored through various methods. Today, this monitoring happens through an NGTP dashboard. Maharashtra has taken the lead in canceling the registration of these non-genuine taxpayers right from the inception date if they are found to be fraudulent.
On the national scale, the GST framework integrates a range of technological initiatives, given its “” ethos. These include the E-way bill system for monitoring the movement of goods and the E-invoice mechanism. Since Maharashtra has always been technologically forward- thinking, we have been able to implement these features more efficiently.
Furthermore, we offer various training programs and workshops within the department. We also have a feedback system that captures field visits by State Tax Inspectors, all of which is recorded directly into our software. Whenever new technological advancements need to be tested, pilot programs are often conducted in Maharashtra, serving as a testbed for the rest of the country.
In summary, Maharashtra has been at the forefront of leveraging technology to streamline tax administration, from combating fake registrations to implementing advanced monitoring systems. These technological initiatives contribute to a more efficient and effective tax system both within the state and across the country.